I remember it like it was yesterday; I remember the crying of my mom and my two siblings. We couldn’t believe that something like this could happen to us. It was a week before my 15th birthday; I was excited to turn 15 and have my quinceañera. My dad and I would practice our father-daughter dance almost every day. He would sing a song for me to show off his vocals on my special day.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for me. The morning of Jan. 14, 2019, I was at school, going about my day as usual. I got a text from my mom that something just happened and that after school she needed me to go straight home. My heart dropped because as I read that message I knew it had to be something really serious. I got home and, to my surprise, everyone was sitting down on the couch ready to give me the bad news.
“ICE has taken your dad,” my mom said.
My brother immediately burst into tears. I told him it would be OK.
“But I did it. I was the one who opened the door to ICE. I didn’t know it was them; it’s all my fault,” he replied.
I ran to hug him. It wasn’t his fault; it wasn’t anybody’s fault. We had done nothing wrong for them to separate my family.
All I could think about was, “Why me? Don’t these things only happen to people on TV? Why us? What have we done that was so wrong for ICE to just take away someone who was so important to us?”
I contemplated still having my quinceañera, but why should I? Why should I celebrate something my dad was really looking forward to? Wouldn’t that kind of be betraying him to enjoy something that he could no longer enjoy as well? Plus, everyone was stressed enough; I shouldn’t be selfish and force a financial expense for a dumb birthday party.
After a couple of months, I eventually got in contact with my dad again. He told me during a video call to not be sad, that he would be happy for me to have fun and have my party regardless of whether he’s there or not. We cried about not being there together. It was something we had talked about for years. But, we have promised to see each other on my 18th birthday, which is on Jan. 21, 2022.
“Espero que te la pases bien, mija,” my dad said as tears were accumulating in his eyes. “Te mando un gran abrazo y muchos besos para tu día especial.” All I could say was thank you, thank you for not forgetting about us, thank you for everything you have done, not just for me but for our family.
I ended up having the party a couple of months later — May 11, 2019, to be exact. The traditional father-daughter dance turned into a mother-daughter dance. I thanked my dad specifically for making my party into a reality. He was so happy to see that in a recording I made that was later sent to him in Mexico.
The significance of that day still stays with me and empowers me every day. It shaped me to become resilient and self-reliant. It’s been hard, and still is, knowing that I won’t get to see him every day like I used to. It’s hard knowing he never got to sing his favorite song on my special day. It’s hard knowing that my family won’t be the same anymore. Despite all of this, I have learned that not only am I strong, but I’m capable of getting back up when life pushes me back down 10 more times.